NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Supergirl” are present in this review
If you were hoping for a more in-depth look at Martian Manhunter as he exists in the universe of Supergirl, then you’re in luck! “Strange Visitor From Another Planet” is all about the Last Son of Mars, even though it still does manage to work in a big development with the title heroine, and her boss.
For the most part though, this episode is all about spotlighting the true depth behind the character of Hank/J’onn, and the tragedy that ultimately drove him to flee to Earth, and hide within the ranks of the DEO. Appropriately then, we have one of the deadliest enemies of Martian Manhunter from DC Comics lore in this week’s episode, the White Martians, or at least one of them, who has come to Earth to finish off the last Green Martian, not knowing where he’s truly hiding. During a press rally for a disagreeable, strictly anti-alien senator, Miranda Crane, said White Martian comes out of the woodwork, spooking Hank to his core, with Supergirl’s intervention being the only thing that saves Crane’s life, and the lives of many other people.
From there, Crane is hidden within the DEO, where the true depth of her anti-alien bile begins to spill out. As much as Hank and Alex find her insufferable however, they have no choice but to guard her life. It’s pretty easy to spot some obvious political commentary here, especially with topical things like U.S. presidential hopeful, Donald Trump’s strict and controversial anti-immigrant pledges, and while some of it is good, some of it is also a bit on-the-nose.
This becomes even more apparent during an otherwise brilliantly emotional scene, where Hank recounts the attack of the White Martians back during his time on Mars several centuries ago. Hank tells Alex all about how his wife and daughters were slaughtered, and how the White Martians viewed the Green Martians as vermin that need to be exterminated, even being cleansed with fire and put in labour camps, no doubt echoing some pretty uncomfortable parallels to genocide events like The Holocaust. For a light-hearted, fluffy DC show like Supergirl, this may make younger and more sensitive audiences rather uncomfortable. On the bright side though, David Harewood absolutely nails this scene, effortlessly conveying the heartbreak and suffering that Hank/J’onn still agonizes over, even now. Harewood owns most of the episode in fact, delivering easily his best performance to date on this show, especially when Hank vows to kill the White Martian when he encounters it again, despite Alex’s protests.
Turns out that “Crane” is actually the White Martian in disguise though, drawn to the DEO, due to a telepathic link with the undercover Martian Manhunter, which gave away the last Green Martian’s location when Hank used his Martian abilities to sneak into Maxwell Lord’s hidden Room 52. After a brief struggle, which Supergirl yet again just barely keeps everyone safe from, Hank and Alex track the White Martian to a sewer area, where the real Crane is found alive, and the White Martian yet again nearly kills Hank, though this time, Hank taunts it into a final battle.
With Supergirl’s help, Hank manages to subdue the creature, even when he initially believes that he will die in the fight, and makes peace with that. When the White Martian is stopped however, Hank puts Kryptonite handcuffs on Supergirl, and goes to finish off his bitter enemy. Thankfully though, he relents after Supergirl talks him down, and the White Martian is imprisoned with the other captured aliens in the DEO prison. Even as the White Martian taunts Supergirl however, warning of the coming scourge of White Martians, Supergirl, like Hank, takes one simple stance; “Let them come.” It’s a very cool end to an intense and emotionally-charged conflict, and made for a great way to properly flesh out the backstory of Martian Manhunter, while also promising that this won’t be the last time that the show does so.
As great as the White Martian battle was though, and as superb a villain as the White Martian was (never before have we gotten back-to-back helpings of superb villains-of-the-week on Supergirl to date!), the flip-flopping of Crane, who suddenly goes against all of her anti-alien beliefs because Supergirl bailed her out of certain death a couple of times, feels a bit too easy. You’d think that her anti-alien paranoia would worsen, given Crane’s bad experience with the White Martian, but I guess there’s no room in the current season to squeeze in much more of that commentary, especially with forces like Astra, Non, Maxwell Lord, and the various Fort Rozz aliens still at large, and those are just the baddies that we know about for now!
There was also a subplot in this episode, which finally introduced Cat Grant’s illegitimate son, Adam Foster, but it didn’t pack quite as much emotional punch as the Martian Manhunter material. It was appealing to see a more sensitive side to Cat, especially when her reunion with Adam doesn’t go very well at first, but after some moderation from Kara, the two eventually start to bond, and start building some semblance of a mother/son relationship, even though Cat was initially enraged at Kara for finishing and sending a letter to Adam that summoned him to National City in the first place, without her permission.
Adam also asks Kara out on a date when this plot has concluded, which she agrees to, predictably going to Alex for advice as the episode winds down. There are a few awkward interactions with Winn at a couple of points in the episode, and both James and Lucy kind of bumble around and don’t really do much this week, but the promise of a romantic arc with Adam Foster isn’t a terrible idea, even if it feels like the standout Winn drama from last week is sadly being swept under the rug for now. The ending of the episode during sister time with Kara and Alex was pretty cool though, as they see what appears to be a fake Supergirl intervening in the scene of a car accident, and either saving people, or causing trouble. It’s left nicely ambiguous, and I have a feeling that this impostor has something to do with Maxwell Lord’s little private experiment with the corpse in Room 52. I guess we’ll find out next week.
“Strange Visitor From Another Planet” did at least half of its emotionally-charged storylines well, but it was overall another good episode for Supergirl. The Martian Manhunter material was superb, even if the Cat Grant/Adam Foster plot probably won’t grab viewers quite as effectively. Fortunately, there was still some great action that came courtesy of the dangerous and terrifying White Martian, another much better villain-of-the-week for the show to follow Toyman from last week, and an alien menace that we hopefully haven’t seen the last of.
- David Harewood's outstanding performance
- Excellent focus on Martian Manhunter's tragic backstory
- The White Martian is a scary, intense villain
- Cat Grant/Adam Foster drama isn't nearly as interesting
- Crane reversing her policies in the end feels too easy